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Why We Shouldn't Laugh At Flat Earthers

Kwade is a freelance writer who is always in pursuit of education. He feels every subject is fascinating and worth study.

Four Hundred Passages in the Bible that Condemns the Globe Theory, or the Flying Earth, and None Sustain It. This Map is the Bible Map of the World. Copyright by Orlando Ferguson, 1893.

Four Hundred Passages in the Bible that Condemns the Globe Theory, or the Flying Earth, and None Sustain It. This Map is the Bible Map of the World. Copyright by Orlando Ferguson, 1893.

A Growing Movement Believes the Earth is Flat

There are numerous people who’ve publicly declared the Earth is flat.

Let me preface this with a statement:

I am not a “Flat-Earther.” I’m quite comfortable with the idea that our planet is a globe. I feel there are deep flaws in Flat-Earth Theory, and many simple pieces of truth are missed by it.

We know confirmation bias exists. When we believe in something, we tend to seek out evidence, and look at evidence in a way that supports our beliefs.

Similarly, we know people have “cognitive dissonance” in which we shut out arguments that conflict with our beliefs.

They’re both ways our mind helps us survive in the world. That may be all there is to the Flat-Earth Theory.

So why don’t we call the “Flat-Earthers” idiots and move on?

First: Because it’s tantamount to saying, “that’s a stupid question.” In other words: When we ridicule someone, we trigger their confirmation bias with a challenge. Ridicule only strengthens someone’s beliefs. True or not.

Second: We all fall prey to confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Knowing this is the case, simply brushing off people who believe something we don’t isn’t just foolish, It’s willful ignorance.

Third: It’s a warning sign of a different issue. Lack of faith in scientists.

Is The Earth Flat?

“Is the Earth really round?” Coming from a five year old is a question we feel comfortable with. From a twenty year old, not so much. But it’s just as valid. What if they never asked the question before? This is like being part of a religion and never asking questions about it. Questioning belief is important for forward momentum. When someone comes at the world and asks, “is the Earth round.” It’s a valid question. That’s the time to say, well, let’s walk through why we believe the Earth is round. Turning it into a ridicule session is like saying “that’s a stupid question.” What do we do? We learn not to ask questions.

The most healthy thing any scientist can do is refuse to ask questions and believe everything he hears, right? Of course not. Asking questions, even “stupid” ones is one of the most important ways to learn. If you don’t understand something, ask. In asking, we find new questions too.

Again, there are no stupid questions. The stupid question is the one that goes unasked. Why? Because not asking the question when it is in your mind, is preventing your own growth. We’ve spent much time and energy trying to promote critical thinking. THIS is how we do it. We encourage questions. We then use reasoning, logic, and critical thought to show a path to find the answers. Not doing so looks like hubris. “I know it’s right, therefore, it is. Shut up.”

Why do so many people believe in the Flat Earth Theory?

Assuming we’re right: Because “Globers” refuse to answer a simple question with respect. This means they have to do their own research and don’t understand some of the questions that lead to the findings that make the most sense. Consequently, “globers” shoot back refuting a single issue at a time and can’t handle the incorrect conclusions. Confirmation bias keeps looping the Flat Earther back to ideas that obfuscate truth, and find many reasons to believe in the flatland.

Or so I believe.

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Why Do Attempts to Prove The Earth Round Fail?

As we talked about before, any belief comes with confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance. This is certainly why some people don’t change their mind.

However, even people who are highly intelligent and capable of looking at information with a more unbiased view are not convinced. In fact, most who’ve come to believe in Flat Earth did so because they started asking questions. Many realized they never questioned the “Globe Theory” and for the first time, that’s what they’re doing.

I never questioned it. Did you?

Now that they are asking questions, how are they greeted?

With ridicule.

Most of us are so convinced of the simplicity of the idea that the Earth is round, we think the simplest ideas should be enough. So simple, in fact, some of them are just wrong.

“You could see Paris from here.” Said Neil Degrasse Tyson in an interview (while in the US). This argument and many others can be shrugged off easily.

From the US, there is no way you could see Paris. Set the curve aside. The atmosphere would get in the way. Our atmosphere is not clear. There are chemicals and particulate in the air that disrupt visual acuity. Not only that, there are limits to our range of vision. Just as you cannot see an ant from hundreds of feet, you cannot see a building from hundreds of miles away. Viewing a city across a vast ocean isn’t possible, and wouldn’t be on a flat plane, either. With visual aid, we can see farther, but again, there are limits.

Instead of debunking the Flat Earth Theory, this just adds fuel to the fire.

The problem with debunking the Flat Earth Theory isn’t that the theory is wrong. The problem is that people don’t know how to have a real conversation about it.

If we want to disprove Flat Earth, we need to understand it. That means entertaining the idea with an open mind. Going in assuming it’s stupid and not worth our time, is just being closed-minded. Which is also following your own confirmation bias.

It’s Not Just About Flat Earth

One reason flat Earth is easy to dismiss is the level of conspiracy there would have to be. To believe in Flat Earth, one must not only question the notion of being on a ball, but the truth of scientific achievement at large. If the Earth is flat, that also means many people would have to be lying. If you can’t imagine NASA lying since the sixties about space, you can’t see Flat Earth as a possibility.

Part of the problem is your own cognitive dissonance. I know, “how dare I suggest you might have conflicting beliefs?”

“This group of millions are idiots, it couldn’t possibly be that this other group of thousands are lying.”

No. I’m not saying NASA is full of liars and frauds. I’m saying if we can’t entertain the possibility, we’re the fools.

NASA isn’t perfect, nor should we trust everything they say simply because they’re NASA. It may be that NASA is everything the public has been told they are. However, no matter how slim the possibility, it may be that everything we know about NASA is a lie.

Belief In Flat Earth Is Dangerous

You may have heard that a belief in a flat Earth is dangerous. People talk about the level of ignorance it takes to believe something so preposterous being frightening. I see things a little differently. Believing in something that is wildly incorrect is a symptom of other failings in our world.

Those in positions of authority failing us. Scientists have been corrupted by greed and power. Asbestos, lead in gas, and many other issues have contributed to a lack in trust for what we commonly refer to as “the establishment” or the mainstream.

Because of this lack of trust, many people seek other sources. This leaves the door open for some crazy ideas.

The way to fix it is to regain the trust of common people. The only way that will happen is if the mainstream can treat people with respect. Regardless of their “crazy” ideas.

Instead, we have popular scientists declaring we should jail people who don't agree.

This attitude about theories is what we need to truly debunk any conspiracy theory.

Thanks For Reading

Do you have any thoughts to add?

© 2019 kwade tweeling


kwade tweeling (author) from USA on March 29, 2019:

Brad Masters, I've heard multiple responses to those questions. My favorite answer to the dimentions of a flat Earth is an incredibly strange answer. Basically, imagine we're living under a massive dome. Then imagine beyond the dome is a vast plane (perhaps endless) stretching in all directions. Other domes may exist besides ours with other civilizations under them. It makes me smile.

Without actually proving Flat Earth true, I don't have a satisfying answer. Of course, it might help if I beleived in it.

RTalloni, I agree it's unkind. I don't agree having such a belief is pitiful. It's a symptom of our divided society that's more interested in playing teams and creating enemies than in finding the truth.

It's also foolish to always think ones own opinion is the only truth. Worse yet, to think that shutting out stupid ideas is the way to address them, instead of talking about them and seekintg truth together.

RTalloni on March 28, 2019:

Though it is hard not to, laughing at them is unkind because believing such a thing is pitiful. Scientists who say flat earthers should be jailed are a good reason not to trust scientists...if we think they are all the same! Thankfully, they are not.

One theory about flat earthers is that they are led by people who want to dismiss what the Bible says about creation. The more we learn about this amazing sphere and its inhabitants the more we see the incredible handiwork of God unfolding before our very eyes. Science has proven what He tells us in so many ways, sometimes in spite of itself. A study of believing Scientists and their work in various fields is useful in pondering this topic.

Brad on March 28, 2019:

What is the thickness and length of a flat Earth?

The round Earth people say it is over 24,000 miles around the circumference.

With all the planets and stars being round, what make earth flat?

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